Statement By Ms. Anna Tibaijuka
Under Secretary General &
occasion of commissioning UN-Habitat’s activities in
Lira - Northern Uganda
Your Excellency Mr. Daniel Omara Atubo, Senior Minister of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development,
Your Excellency Mr. Michael Werikhe, Minister of State for Housing
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I have the opportunity to address you here today at the Igony Primary School in Lira.
UN-Habitat has a wide range of activities in Uganda in support of both central and local spheres of Government. These activities target the most vulnerable people living in cities and towns. UN-Habitat’s Country Programme Document for Uganda covering the period 2008 to 2009 clearly sets out the priority areas that your Government wishes to pursue with our help. These areas are urban economic development and promoting sustainable urbanisation. And as UN-Habitat is a member of the UN family, these priority areas are also an integral part of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for Uganda.
Allow me at this juncture, to express our gratitude for the excellent collaboration we have with UNDP, UNICEF and WFP under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, Mr. Theophane Nikyema,
UN-Habitat, the United Nations agency for housing and urban development, helps the urban poor by transforming cities into safer, healthier, greener places with better opportunities where everyone can live in dignity. We are grateful for our strong partnership with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, represented here by the H.E. Senior Minister Daniel Omara Atubo, by H.E. the Minister of State for Housing, Mr. Michael Werikhe, and by their very able staff.
To date UN-Habitat has over 15 on-going and pipeline projects in Uganda covering the whole spectrum of human settlements development. These include the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Programme and its support programmes for preparing City Development Strategies and Plans in Masaka, Kyotera, Mutukula, and Rakai. This programme is bound to expand for we are all aware of the great need for water and sanitation in rapidly growing urban centres. We are also promoting Urban Youth Development and assisting women’s groups in accessing affordable housing, starting with the just completed Mpumudde Low-Income Women Housing Project in Jinja. Today we are here in Lira, in response to the great need of internally displaced persons.
Allow me to remind ourselves that the world’s urban population is growing exponentially, and Uganda will not escape this phenomenon. It is estimated that within the next 10 years, 60% of the world’s population will reside in urban areas. Today, the majority of the world’s population lives in medium and small cities; and it is these cities that will absorb new residents at a higher rate than all other cities in the future. The Ugandan Government has understood this trend and that is why Honourable Minister you are planning to build model cities. I look forward to visiting one of the proposed sites later today. I also look forward to participating in this visionary initiative.
We can help by pointing to best practices, as well as mistakes that others have made so that you can avoid them. Suffice it to say that a sustainable city is one that meets the needs of its inhabitants in harmony with the environment; offers job opportunities for its inhabitants; enables access to land and affordable housing, and provides adequate spaces for the community to develop social capital. The latter is a dimension that many planners ignore, because it is not measurable. Yet it is social capital that is at the root of the life of a city and, as recent research has shown, contributes significantly to both local economic opportunities for communities and to their resilience.
Let us never forget that cities are for people. Cities are much more than just bricks and mortar, pipes and tarmac, and they are certainly not intended to be overtaken by traffic jams, congestion and pollution. We thus need to plan our cities from the outset to reduce dependence on the car, by ensuring that we can go to work, go to school, and procure our daily necessities all within reasonable distances.
A sustainable city is also a city that provides the poor and the most vulnerable with hope for a better life, a place where they can secure a livelihood, find decent and affordable housing, and access social services.
UN-Habitat stands ready to assist the Government of Uganda in this visionary task by drawing on its global expertise and the expertise of its partners working towards more sustainable urban development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me now turn to Igony Primary School, the reason why we are here today. With the support of UNICEF, WFP, the Good Earth Trust, CEASOP, the Ministry of Education and Lira District, UN-Habitat was able to contribute to better housing for teachers here and in 15 other schools in the district.
Lack of basic services is the key challenge facing displaced people returning to their homes. It is one the key reasons why many displaced people opt to stay in transitional camps. However, it is not enough to build schools and health centers. As with cities, these places only function thanks to the people that provide the services. We cannot expect teachers to travel long hours daily and at the same time provide the children of Lira with the quality education they aspire to. It is therefore essential to provide the people who run basic services with the possibility of accessing decent housing close to where they work so that they can become part of the community they serve.
Conflicts inevitably have a devastating impact on the environment. The enormous need for reconstruction has led to a huge demand for construction materials. This risks further depletion of an already vulnerable environment that is so vital to the livelihoods of the communities in Northern Uganda. In line with our Policy on Human Settlements and Crisis, UN-Habitat has been promoting, through its projects in Northern Uganda, the use of environmental-friendly building technologies using compressed earth blocks.
I am also proud to present to you a publication, made jointly with our partner - the Good Earth Trust - on the Interlocking Stabilized Soil Block Technology, used in the teachers’ houses. It shows that Uganda is building up a rich experience in using the technology. It summarizes lessons learnt and sets out an agenda to scale up the experience.
I am happy to note that small scale local contractors embraced the technology. We hope that the Ugandan Government will soon include appropriate standards in the National Building Code and stimulate the development of curricula in the different vocational training centers across the country to promote this technology. These projects are not possible without the support of the community and I’m impressed by the level of contribution mobilized by you. The kitchens you’ve built for the teachers are just one obvious example. Many more houses for teachers, health workers and police need to be built and we hope that the donors will generously support the government in using this technology to speed up reconstruction and recovery in Northern Uganda.
With support from USAID, and in collaboration with Good Earth Trust and Makerere University, we have also constructed demonstration office blocks in 3 districts. We hope the necessary funding will be mobilized, to turn them into support centers where communities can learn more about the technology and its application and where one could set up a lending programme to make the machines accessible to community groups.
In a separate project, with support from the French Embassy, and working with a local NGO - FAPAD, we have facilitated the return of 40 of the vulnerable displaced people including widows, orphans and the elderly, who were left behind in the camps, using a variant of the same technology.
We hope to further strengthen our partnerships with our sister agencies and the Government Ministries to scale up activities in Northern Uganda. The job is not done yet. Too many families, villages and towns still need support to continue on the road to recovery. Supportive government policies and actions are needed and resources must be mobilized to help mainstream the use of appropriate technologies, to help turn the camps that will remain into sustainable communities, and to guide the recovery of cities, towns and villages in a sustainable direction.
Conflicts over land have to be resolved and supported by improved legal and institutional frameworks to ensure lasting peace, a key ingredient to a more sustainable urban future. All these initiatives should be conceived so as to develop local skills, ensure local ownership and enhance the local economy.
In closing, I need to thank of course the UN-HABITAT team here in Lira led by Peter Donde and ably supported by Mr. Robert Adupa; our Habitat Programme Manager, Peter Wegulo, for the coordination with the government and the UN Country Team, under the direction of the UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Theophane Nikyema; the many committed UNICEF and WFP staff members,; FAO who hosted us in their offices; the District Officials, our local partners and of course the community, without whom these projects would not have been possible. It is good to see also the result of effective teamwork in Nairobi, between our Disaster Management Programme, who have set up the projects following the end of the conflict, and our Regional Office for Africa and Arab States, who will carry our work in Northern Uganda forward as of now.
Last but not least, let me say that this programme demonstrates how the UN Family is “Delivering as One” in support of meeting the development challenges of Uganda.
Let us collectively make sure that what we see in front of us becomes a reality for the communities in need all over Northern Uganda.
I thank you for your kind attention.